Do Student Voices

University of Chicago: Five Underrated Campus Spots

UChicago’s campus is famous for its gothic buildings, but there are so many more places to explore than what you see on every postcard!

The campus buildings make every walk a sightseeing trip (Credit: Google).

I’ve only been at UChicago for two quarters, but I’ve already heard it compared to Hogwarts more times than I can count. And for good reason—the campus is renowned for its gothic architecture, with turrets, towers, and gargoyles making dormitories look like castles. A photo of the ivy-covered walls of Harpur Library or the Rockefeller Chapel is sure to grace every admissions pamphlet. Even the more modern buildings are eye-catching, such as Mansueto Library’s giant glass dome or the Max P. dorm’s bright geometrical design. These sights are all well-known to the public, but there are plenty more magical spots on campus largely overlooked by visitors. As a current student, here are some sights I recommend to keep an eye out for on your next visit.

1. The Oriental Institute

Located just off the quad on University Avenue, the OI is a small gothic-style building with beautifully carved wooden doors. It boasts a world-renowned collection of Near-Eastern artwork and artifacts, with exhibits ranging from the development of Cuneiform to the architecture of Assyrian temples. Admission is free by appointment, and the gallery is small enough that you can get through it in less than half a day. As one of the only campus buildings open to the public during the pandemic, the OI is a must-see.

2. Crerar Library

Tucked away behind the geology building on Ellis Avenue, Crerar is the least well-known of UChicago’s libraries. However, I can attest to its quiet charm and cozy atmosphere, which is a relaxing contrast to the more crowded main quad. For students, the library makes a great study space if you need to buckle down and finish a particularly difficult P-set; for visitors, Crerar is conveniently located adjacent to both the medical campus and UChicago’s gift shop. If either of those interest you, you’ll want to take a stroll down to Crerar.

3. Botany Pond

When I first saw Botany Pond, I was speechless with delight. There’s something about a pond, fit with lily pads, ducks, and a small stone bridge, that absolutely transforms any area—especially an urban one. Botany Pond is easy to miss, its dark water blending into the grey stone of the buildings behind it. But once you know what you’re looking for, you’re in for a treat. The stone benches beside the water can get quite cold in the winter, but that’s just Chicago: everything is bound to get cold! If you’re not afraid of a little ice and snow, the pond is just inside the entrance to the main quad, across the street from Regenstein Library.

The lily pads in Botany Pond are a welcome sign of spring (Credit: Google).

4. International House

Contrary to what you may believe, I-House is no longer just for international students. This famous student dorm is one of the farthest from the main quad, but it’s well worth the walk. The dorm boasts magnificent gothic architecture, plaques detailing its history, and a clear view of South Campus. It also features Tiffin Cafe, the source of many late-night chicken nugget runs by sleepy residents. I-House stays true to its international roots and often hosts special events and forums. Plus, if you make the trek, you’ll pass by Harpur Library, Rockefeller Chapel, and the UChicago Lab school along the way!

5. Logan Center for the Arts

Located just south of the Midway, the Logan Center for the Arts is hard to miss with its sleek glass windows reflecting the sun. This multipurpose building hosts a cafe, musical practice rooms, classrooms, and a penthouse performing arts space. The view from higher floors is incredible, with the enormous windows giving you an aerial view of campus. Walking to the center itself is an adventure, as you’ll pass many interesting buildings (such as the Social Service Administration school and the Burton-Judson dorms) along the way.

The modern exterior of the Logan Center for the Arts (Credit: Tom Rossiter).

Overall, the grounds of UChicago are filled with beautiful, interesting, and, of course, quirky spots. My time at school has allowed me to explore all around campus and share some of these spots with you! Even though certain buildings were closed this year because of COVID, this made me appreciate the outdoor sites even more and focus on recommending places that non-students can easily access and appreciate. I hope you enjoy these insider locations as much as I do!